A positron emission tomography study of essential tremor: evidence for overactivity of cerebellar connections

Ann Neurol. 1993 Jul;34(1):82-90. doi: 10.1002/ana.410340115.


The origin of essential tremor is unknown. Animal models have suggested that the inferior olivary nucleus may act as a tremor generator. We used positron emission tomography to study changes in regional cerebral blood flow associated with involuntary postural tremor and passive wrist oscillation in patients with essential tremor. Activation due to voluntary wrist oscillation and arm extension without tremor was studied in normal control subjects. The essential tremor group had bilaterally increased cerebellar blood flow at rest (without tremor) compared with the control group. Involuntary postural tremor was associated with further bilateral cerebellar activation, and also contralateral striatal, thalamic, and sensorimotor cortex activation. Voluntary wrist oscillation, maintained arm extension without tremor, and passive wrist oscillation were all associated with significant ipsilateral rather than bilateral cerebellar activation. We conclude that essential tremor is associated with increased bilateral cerebellar activity both at rest and during tremor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed
  • Tremor / diagnostic imaging*